July 23, 2005

Farmers Markets and a Free Trade Non-Profit Coffee House - And Houston's Not Progressive?

From living in Ithaca, New York, I learned early on that Farmers Markets are a way to meet people, support small business, and eat well! So off to discover Houston Farmers Markets I went.

Searching the web I found the Houston Farmers Market and was immediately impressed with the site content. Proud of myself I emailed the link off to my sister Marlene who use to manage a farmers market in D.C. and she too was impressed. Unfortunately it was Wednesday and their market is on Saturday and Tuesday so I continued my internet search, now that I was on a mission to meet people.

Surfing further I found three more farmers markets, one of which was was open on Wednesday! Off I trekked to Bayou City Farmer Market. Located just half a mile from Stephen’s office and about two blocks from the Renaissance Hotel we called home for several weeks, the market is hidden away in a parking lot behind an office building.

Despite the rain there was a row of drenched vendors happily standing amongst their tables of produce and products feeding each other samples. They fed me too. Chatting with them I learned that farmers markets are new to Houston and people are just starting to frequent them. I spent all the cash in my pocket, $6, and wished that I had had more to pump into their little market of six tables. Eager for me to shop organic they told me about two more markets. Both were open on Saturday so I looked forward to my first weekend adventure.

In true “I have too much time on my hands” style I researched the markets on the and discovered that Midtown Farmers Market at Tafia Restaurant an indoor-outdoor market, and Midtown Farmers Market at Taft Street CafĂ© were close to my house. I also learned that I not only live in Montrose, but our neighborhood is called Midtown.

Saturday arrived and I donned my hippest outfit and walking gear (aka funky Ithaca style hippie shirt and sneakers), and ventured out with handmade map and a liter Ozarka bottled water in my backpack. Despite learning that people do not walk, and especially not alone to their destination, as recorded in my July 18, 2005 post, I was determined to get there by foot. At least it was daylight this time. People did watch me with curiosity and various service workers along my route expressed a little too much interest but I smiled, greeted them and continued deliberately on my way.

Arriving at the Midtown Farmers Market at Tafia Restaurant, a 15-minute walk from our place, I again discovered a very small market but the restaurant itself looked really cool and instantly made it to my list of Places-to-Show-Stephen. I purchased some blueberries.

The Breakfast Klub next door looked even more interesting so I stuck my head in the door. Inside it was humming with activity. It seems to be a black owned and operated establishment with a rainbow of clientele. As I exited a group of four black men of various ages, dressed in matching pink/peach shirts entered, and I caught the tail end of their telling a woman outside the door that they are family and display their connection by dressing the same. Two thoughts came to mind: 1) another cool place for my list for Stephen and 2) why aren’t there businesses, families or community like this in Oakland?

Off I walked to the final market, the closest one to my house. As I arrived at the address I couldn’t figure out if I had the correct location. In front of me stood a brick building that looked like a community church. No sign of vendors. A woman walked past me and opened the side door and I followed. After my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting I was able to see a few tables with produce and some food products. Everyone was friendly and I purchased some bits and pieces.

Before leaving I ventured into another room and wow! I found one of the most interesting, clean and welcoming coffeehouses I had ever entered. In fact, it reminded me of what I always wanted to start, a coffeehouse with sinful desserts, quality books for sale, an art gallery, wireless internet, clean funky furniture and friendly staff. I was in love. Even more surprising is that the place is a non-profit. Houston keeps surprising me.